How Should Behavior Analysis Interact Effectively with the Social Sciences?

Ingunn Sandaker


I would like to discuss some perspectives on scientific approaches traditionally viewed as mutually incompatible or antagonistic. This might be illustrated by e.g. natural scientists’ claim of unambiguous communication as a result of objective description of experience vs. social constructivists claiming that there can be no such objective description of reality, since reality is constructed in a context and may vary relative to an individual’ s perception, cultural, ethnic and political belonging. This is not a discussion limited to behavioural analysis vs. humanistic approaches or empiricism vs. hermeneutics, but a seemingly antagonistic and sometimes hostile dispute going on for more than half a century within the European and American intellectual communities. I want to frame this discussion with reference to the classical scientific ambition of “Unity of Knowledge” as expressed by the physicist Niels Bohr. This ambition is further developed and refined by contemporary biologist Edward O. Wilson when he describes the unity of knowledge as “Consilience.” I want to argue for a unifying behavioural approach with high scientific ambitions, but with the humble recognition that we have not yet, and may never reach a point we can call “The End of Science.”


Complexity, level of reduction, unity of knowledge, complementarity, cultural selection, metacontingences

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Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility